We finally outran the white dirt in a place called Phoenix, and I started to get pumped for a dry and white-dirt-free adventure. If we kept driving the direction we were going we would have ended up in Mexico. Mom didn’t have her Mexico-entry-book, so we had to make a decision whether to go right or left before we crashed into the Great Wall of Mexico. It was a hard decision because without castle-like mountains or rock formations that looked like they came from a dream, it was hard to tell the best trails from the boring ones. At the last minute, Mom decided not to go right toward Yuma and instead turned left toward Two-son and beyond it, the empty desert of New Mexico.
To Mom’s horror, the mountains beyond Two-son wore a healthy fur of white dirt. “You’ve got to be kidding me!” Mom said. “I think the snow line is even lower here than it was in Sedona! It must be down to 3000ft!”
“Is that bad?”
“Let me put it this way, our trail tomorrow starts at 5000 ft and goes to 7000 ft. And we got turned around at about 6500 yesterday…” Mom said.
“So… that means we hike?”
“That means more snow.”
Just then, the dark angry storm clouds blew in and the nighttime storm started right on time. The white dirt didn’t fall in floofs this time, but angry snapping bullets that bounced off the road rather than sticking to it. But the joke was on the storm, because right at the time when it was time for the white dirt to start accumulating, we turned onto the road that led to the trail and found ourselves blocked by an enormous gate.
“Look, Mom! There’s a sign. What does it say?”
“It says that this is a private community and you need a code to get in. Why the hell didn’t any of the reviews mention this?”
“Take that, white dirt! You can’t stop us, this gate is stopping us. Suckah!” I barked. Mom stared at the gate for a long minute, and then turned back to find a place to sleep in the empty desert. We’d figure it out in the morning.
The trail that Mom found for the morning was low, and not too difficult. The reviews said that it was hard to find, but we’re good at following the mapp by now, so Mom wasn’t worried. Seven miles from the trailhead, the road turned to dirt, and the Covered Wagon started shaking and growling. With only 2 miles to go, there was a sign that said, DO NOT ENTER WHEN FLOODED, and behind the sign was a river.
“Oh come on!” Mom said. Then she found a stopping spot for the Covered Wagon and gathered all of our expedition things. Then she took her shoes off, and we walked into the river.
Mom took her shoes off to cross the river that first time, but the next five times we had to cross, she didn’t even bother. She just rolled up her pants and stomped through socks and all. It was just that kind of day.
“Mom, can we at least run?” I asked.
“I overdressed,” Mom admitted. “I thought that 30 degrees was a lot… colder. I’m roasting in all these layers.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “Can I at least take off my jacket?”
“No way, José. This is hunter country.”
“I’m not in danger, Mom,” I told her in my flinty outlaw voice. “I am the danger. Someone barks at the door and a dog gets shot, and you think that’s me? No. I am the one who barks!”
“Great line,” Mom said. “But I don’t recommend you try it.”
We found the trailhead, and of course the first thing that the trail did was cross the river. Once on the other side, Mom and I squelched into the thick brush and boulders. “Where’s the trail?” I asked.
“What trail?!” Mom said. “There’s absolutely nothing here.” I thought Mom had to be wrong, but when I looked around, there wasn’t even the faintest of lines through the boulders. It was impossible to find a line that didn’t take us through a thicket of pricker bushes.
We followed the mapp for about a tenth of a mile through pricker bushes that grabbed us and held on to our clothing and tore our skin. When we reached a fence, Mom put the app away and started following the fence, jumping from boulder to boulder not in the best line but where there were the fewest pricker traps.
“Is this the trail?” I asked. The pricker bushes had already torn my new coat, and I had developed a strategy of waiting on each rock for Mom to change her mind. I only moved ahead to the next boulder when it was clear that she planned to move out of telepathy range.
“I think I remember something about following the fence for a mile,” Mom said. “I’m just trying not to have my clothes ripped off, I can’t be checking my phone every 5 paces.” After a quarter of a mile, Mom finally checked the mapp again. “What the hell?! We’ve been going perpendicular to the trail this whole time. We were supposed to go through the fence back there. I didn’t see a break in the fence, did you?”
“All I saw were pricker bushes and rocks. I never even saw a trail. This place sucks.”
“Forget it! Let’s get the heck out of here,” Mom said, climbing down off the rocks and pricker bushes that we thought was the trail and down to the regular ground and pricker bushes that also wasn’t the trail but had more open land to walk around the pricker traps.
Mom felt bad for ruining my hike, so when we got back to the Covered Wagon, she suggested we do the coolest, manliest thing she’s ever invited me to do. “Do you want to visit Tombstone?” she asked.
“What? Like the frozen pizzas?”
“No, like old west and saloons, and shootouts at the OK Corral, and Bootjack Cemetery, and stuff.”
“Wait! That place is real?!”
“Well, I’ve never seen the movies, and I forget what actually happened in real life and what I just kind of absorbed from Bugs Bunny cartoons, but I think it really was a rough town full of outlaws in the frontier days… or the gold rush days… or the Indian Wars days… Were those all around the same time?”
“Smell yeah I want to go! It’s where a tough outlaw like me belongs!” I barked. So we turned off the main highway toward Tombstone.
We arrived in downtown Tombstone exactly at noon, and it was just like in the movies making fun of the other movies: There was a dusty road with men wearing long coats, long mustaches and big hats stomping down the center of it yelling things. To each side of the dusty road were one-story wooden buildings wearing two-story hats and sheltering all the normal people cowering under their shades.
“Mom! Mom! They’re going to have a shootout!” I said.
“Come see the shootin’ show at the Okay Corral!” a mean-looking cowboy shouted with his hand resting on the gun on his hip. “We’re civilized here, we schedule our shootings!”
“Mom! Be careful! He’s fixing to shoot someone, don’t let it be you! Here, do you want to borrow my red jacket?” I was still wearing my hunter-repellant jacket. Even though the prickers had ripped a hole in it, I was pretty sure it could still stop bullets.
We walked down the wooden sidewalk until another old westey guy stopped Mom and told her, “Most of the restaurants along this way don’t allow dogs, but this one does. They make great coffee.” And then he added, “I got me a Siberian husky mix at home.”
“A Siberian Husky isn’t a very old westy dog,” I whispered to Mom. “I don’t remember anything about dog sleds in the old west stories. And why does he have an Australian accent?”
“This is the most exquisite tourist trap I’ve ever seen!” Mom whispered, getting really excited now. “I’ve never seen anyone put so much effort into something and have it still be so seedy and tacky!” Tacky is Mom’s favorite activity.
Right before I followed the Australian cowboy’s advice to buy Mom a cup of coffee, I heard a sound behind me on the street. I turned around and… Heavens to Betsy! There were two of the biggest horses in the whole world pulling… A COVERED WAGON. I was so excited that I would have crashed through the little coffee store like a bowling ball to tell everyone about it if Mom hadn’t pinned me down with the leash.
Mom and I didn’t plan to do anything but mosey up and down Main Street and then vamoose, but the next store we passed had a sign in the window that said, “All dogs are welcome, but if they poo on the floor then you will be subject to a $15 cleaning charge.”
“Say no more!” Mom said, and we went inside, not even knowing what kind of store it was.
The kind of store it was was an timey photo shoppe called Old Timey Photo Shoppe. If you’ve never visited one, it’s where you put on costumes and they take your picture, so of course Mom was excited. “Oscar, we’ll put some boots on you! and a hat! And one of those belts with bullets, and a vest, and a dusty old coat, and… and you can hold a gun!”
“Well, we can’t really let him wear the human costumes in case someone’s allergic, and I don’t think we have dog boots, but we do have a hat and a bandana…” the lady said, squashing Mom’s enthusiasm a little bit.
“Great! And you can print it in sepia?” Mom asked.
“Of course. And what would you like to wear?”
Mom looked down at her sweat pants, and the dusty driving slippers that she got at Walgreens. “Lady, I haven’t showered in a week. The dog’s going to be the only one in the picture!” she grinned.
So we went through the photo routine: I sat still while Mom put the hat on my head and then bandana on my neck, and then she told me to up-up onto the fake porch and I stood still and looked reproachful while the lady took the pictures and Mom beamed at me proudly. Then, when it was over I did a lap around the room getting butt scratchies from everyone, who now realized that a world-class model had walked into their Old Timey Photo Shoppe, and couldn’t wait to tell me what a good boy I was.
We walked around Tombstone a little longer, and I nominated lots of new friends who had come to Tombstone to meet an outlaw like me. They don’t show it in the movies, but Tombstone is a really friendly place and lots of my new Friends said that I was the best part of their visit. Once we had walked up and down Main Street, it was time to go back to our Covered Wagon and continue along the trail.
Oscar the Outlaw